There are times when explaining facts to politicians looks like a lost cause as anyone who has ever had to do so on the subject of the Common Fisheries Policy knows only too well. So, here we go again. If Scotland becomes independent of the United Kingdom (a big if but let us grant it) but a member of the European Union, its fishing industry will be part of the Common Fisheries Policy and it will not be taking any decisions on the subject. All decisions will be taken centrally for various political reasons to do with various issues that involve other member states. Scotland will not be negotiating with other fishing countries in the North Atlantic as Norway or Iceland do if it stays or re-enters the European Union. Of course, if it does not the situation will be different.
It is not clear whether Richard Lochhead understands this. A summary of the new Report on Scotland's Future and the Scottish Fisheries indicates that the intention is to stay in the European Union and to have an independent fisheries policy which is an illogical absurdity.
Mr Lochhead said that only independence will ensure Scotland’s fishing will be a national priority and ensure that the industry thrives for generations to come.
The five gains for the fishing sector set out in more detail in the report are:
• Fishing will be a national priority
• Direct representation in the EU and ability to negotiate our priorities without compromise
• Protection of Scotland’s fishing quotas
• Fairer share of EU Fisheries budget
• Ensure Scotland’s fishing levies promote Scottish seafood
Let us repeat it once again: within the Common Fisheries Policy, that is, within the European Union, fishing is not a national policy, it is what we call an EU competence and has been since the day the United Kingdom entered the Common Market though the arguments used for that surrender were dubious to put it mildly. (This blog discussed it here and here.)
The notion of negotiating anything with twenty-seven other countries (if Scotland becomes the twenty-eighth member) without compromise is .... well, how shall we put it .... Scotch mist. Scotland's priorities will not be considered to be any more important than any other country's priorities and they are all subsumed to the central politics of the European Union.
The same argument applies to Scotland's fishing quotas or to what any Scottish government might consider to be a fairer share of the Fisheries budget. They might get a reasonable share of Scotland's fishing levies to promote Scottish seafood but it is much more likely that there will be some complicated arrangement whereby the fishing levies will be allocated as the EU decides but some other funds might be given to Scotland for promotion of Scottish seafood somewhere or other.
The only thing that will change will be the number of votes in both the Council of Ministers and in the European Parliament. Scotland will have far fewer in both than the UK has now and cannot achieve much with. That Mr Lochhead does not mention.